Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt Talks Ahead Of The Ole' Miss & LSU Match-Ups

Opening Statement:

“I thought our Kentucky game was one of our better team efforts in terms of playing together both defensively and offensively. We did a little bit better job in our screening action and improved on the offensive end. Coming away from the game, it really made me fully aware that we have to be a better rebounding team. We can’t just expect a couple of people to get on the boards and do the dirty work there. We really need to rebound as a team on the defensive end and have the discipline to get four people on the offensive glass on a consistent basis.”

On Mississippi:

“Watching this Mississippi team, Armintie Price is a great player and is the player that is hard to defend, because she does so many things. They are a very athletic team and cover a lot of ground in their quarter-court defense. They do a good job of random trapping. The concern will be how we handle their defensive pressure. It will be important to take care of the basketball; that needs to be a top priority for us.”


“I haven’t really looked at LSU. I saw part of their Connecticut game, but they are one team I haven’t seen as much. I try not to look ahead, but keep the focus on Ole Miss now. Playing at LSU will be a big challenge for us. There have been some tough games between Tennessee and LSU, whether it is home or away. With Sylvia Fowles in the middle, she’s got the defensive presence and rebounding capabilities to really impact the game. That’s what I think, that rebounding is foremost on my mind.”

Was your goal for the season to run the table in the SEC:

“Well we haven’t done it yet, but obviously the way that we have played and, in particular on the road, and answering second half runs, whether it was Auburn or Georgia or Vanderbilt, I think we’ve shown a lot of character and composure in those games. To me that is very encouraging for our basketball team. In this league everyone will challenge and make a run and if you don’t answer, then you’re not in the position we’re in right now. I’m pleased with what this team has been able to do in that regard. It wasn’t a goal to go undefeated; the goal was to win the SEC regular season. Obviously LSU has been the one that has done that of late, and we established that as our goal. But we talked about it after our wins at Georgia and Vanderbilt, it was more my idea. I said to them that I really want to challenge them as a team to run the table in the league. I said if you want the number one seed, then that is the way to do it. From the national perspective that is important to us. We still have four games; we have to play them one at a time. It won’t be easy to win out, we know that. Certainly playing at LSU is a big challenge. It will be a new experience for our three newcomers as well.”

On this team being up and down with rebounding all season:

“Well I do think that a lot has to do with us not rebounding on the defensive end collectively. We rely a lot on Candace Parker rebounding for us. She’s obviously been a real force on the defensive boards where Nicky Anosike has been inconsistent. Alex Fuller has done a decent job, but our front line can share responsibility and that is exactly what I want them to do. Our guards as well, all the long rebounds, guards should expect to get them. That is something that we haven’t had that type of commitment with the exception of Alexis Hornbuckle. I know with Shannon Bobbitt and Cait McMahan, I’m sure they’ve never had to be challenged in that area, but even point guards need to be mindful of rebounding on the defensive end.”

Are there things you can do on placing emphasis to rebounding in practice:

“There are a lot of drills you can do. I do agree with the philosophy that it’s not so much what you teach but what you emphasize. I don’t think that’s worked as well with this group, we’ve always emphasized rebounding. We’ll have to hold people more accountable. One thing that has certainly come to my mind that we’re going to do is to keep specific stats and talk at halftime about who is rebounding and who is not. We’ll look at how many opportunities we’ve had, how many missed opportunities and holding them accountable throughout the game. We talk about it a lot at time outs, and focusing on the next four minutes. We talk about separating ourselves for the next four minutes and dominating the glass, but I think that we need to hold them accountable from a statistical standpoint.”

On Cait and Shannon as rebounders, how much does their size affect them:

“I think it can factor in. They are not going to be a rebounding guard like Hornbuckle, but my take on that, from watching film. I don’t think they’ve felt the responsibility of ‘if I get two boards a game’ that they can help us from a defensive point to quickly get in our offense. That is where I have to stay on them and encourage them to rebound because there are more people shooting threes in the women’s game. There are longer rebounds coming out, and I think we have to be aware of taking advantage in that regard.”

On Candace Parker’s performance against Kentucky:

“I thought Candace was very focused on being aggressive, on the offensive end, to the basket, did a nice job of attacking off the dribble, but also staying in her shot and not fading. Overall she had a better offensive package, and her shot selection was really good. Certainly she got on the boards for us consistently. Defensively she’s getting better, I still think that there is an upside there to what she can bring, particularly with as many people that are working the high-low action. Every year there are offensive tendencies and right now it’s high low game, setting ball screens at the middle of the floor and at the elbows. Candace, Nicky and Alex need to focus on getting better and guarding that particular action. We are getting better and Candace in particular has gotten better and is much more committed to her defense.”

On Alexis Hornbuckle’s defense and streak of steals:

“Alexis has always invested a lot of energy into her defense. She’s been the player in particular this year that has been the most consistent in terms of her commitment to guard the ball, and generate a lot of energy. I think that filters throughout our team without question. She is good on the ball but very dangerous off the ball and getting in passing lanes. When we’re pressing, she brings the most energy and that inspires her teammates. It has given us a great opportunity for early offense and being able to create an advantage when we get steals in the open court to be able to get to the basket and have a distinct advantage.”

On LSU’s Sylvia Fowles:

“I think she’s taken on a bigger load at both ends of the floor, from what I’ve seen. She’s committed defensively and playing hard and working on the glass within their motion offense. One thing that strikes me is that she does a great job of, in her screening action, getting the ball right at the basket in the middle of the floor. They do a great job as a team of putting her in a position to catch and score. I think their spacing in terms of high-low action and getting her in position to be able to get to the basket, it’s hard to defend her when she gets in position. That’s where, to me, on the offensive end they really have improved. She gets a lot more touches and with Seimone Augustus gone, you expect that. Defensively she’s a lot more aggressive. I’m sure she feels like she needs to step up and do more for her team on both ends.”

When Seimone Augustus graduated, what were you expecting from LSU this year:

“I think they have done a great job overall. I’m impressed with the work load that Sylvia Fowles has taken on for that team. That’s what you have to have, when you lose a great player, you have to have someone willing to step up. She stepped up and has been a go-to player. She’s done a great job. In watching them play, they are aggressive from all positions. It’s not like they are standing around watching Sylvia work. That’s always a concern as a coach. I think we’re experiencing some of that with Candace Parker in regard to our rebounding. In watching LSU play, they are working together as a team and trying to make things happen as a team.”

On your loss of big players from last season, such as Shanna Zolman:

“I’m really pleased with this team, there was a lot of unknown, having three players transfer out of our program made me stop and think that we’re not going to have the depth, losing two guards and a strong post presence. Immediately we focused on what we did have. I think the unknown was our two junior college players coming in. Both Alberta Auguste and Shannon Bobbitt have been a pleasant surprise and addition. A surprise because they fit in as quickly as they did and a great addition because they both are capable of making a difference for us. From that standpoint, things came together and we had the speed and quickness to be a better defensive team than we were a year ago. The maturity of Candace Parker, Sidney Spencer and Alexis Hornbuckle, across the board I think that when you’re a year older and you’ve had that experience, it usually will come through. With this group, it’s been very clear that they’re all very committed. They didn’t like what happened last year and how we ended the season. They are the ones that worked in the off season.”

On Lady Vol softball earning the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking:

“I think Karen and Ralph Weekly have done a tremendous job of putting together the caliber athletes. The recruiting they have done nationally has been tremendous. They put Tennessee softball on the map. With Monica Abbott, I’ll never forget the day I met her on her recruiting visit. Both coaches said if she comes to Tennessee, she’ll take us to the Women’s College World Series and that happened. It’s really great to see how they’ve been able to assemble so many talented players and go back-to-back to the WCWS and put Tennessee in the forefront. The exposure has been incredible. Even when I’m out recruiting, it’s amazing how many people have talked about our softball team. They are a great source of pride for all of us.”

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